Ellen Tykeson

Figurative sculpture demonstrates the age old desire to observe and record the human image as a method of communication. For me this tradition is a continual challenge and inspiration, combining the quest for beautiful form with the rigor of believability in anatomy and gesture. Concept rests in eons of large and small stories told, each with vast potential to evoke common experience. In my work, I appreciate this narrative and try to convey it through transformational subjects, invoking relationship, or by injecting humor. Context is also important to me, and can be built by employing supporting elements, grouping figures, or delving into mythic themes.
Experimenting with kinetic work is a new exploration recently, and commissions are also a significant part of my current sculpture. I’ve discovered that the commission process creates a great framework for teasing out the essence of a project. Designing a worthwhile sculpture that defines the often big questions of these perimeters has proven to be a great game in problem solving, one that I have come to enjoy very much. And so, over the years I’ve been excited to find that a harmonious blend of design, form making, and a hint of the mysterious can provide elusive but tantalizing possibilities for figurative sculptors such as myself.
There is a dare and a voyage every time, storms too! When I began this work, it was with ceramic clay. Eventually, I came to appreciate the strength and weightless effect achieved with metal and currently cast most sculpture in bronze. I start a piece with a concept drawing, eventually hiring a model or using photographs for reference. Small sculpture is built directly in oil clay or plastiline over a wire armature. Large work requires a small placement or gesture model to establish the design. I frequently enlarge this model, also known as a maquette, to an intermediate scale if the final piece will be life-sized or over.
This final maquette is enlarged again, often with new foam scale-up technology, providing an accurate core which is easily manipulated and detailed with a plastiline overlay to produce the finished original. As such, I find myself building a large piece three times before the clay work is done. To complete the sculpture, piece molds, waxes, welding, metal finishing, and patina are done as specified by the foundry… processes that require many more versions of making by skilled craftsmen there.

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